Letter: Important insurance meeting Wednesday at Hotel Colorado
The State Division of Insurance is hosting a meeting on Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. at the Hotel Colorado. Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar will be discussing the Insurance Commission’s Geographic Ratings, which have resulted in a high increase in health care premiums for individuals and small groups in Garfield County for 2014.
If you are a small business owner or an individual, or parent of a grown child facing these increases, you need to be there to voice your objections.
The purpose of using geographic ratings is to allow insurers to adjust premiums to reflect regional differences in the cost of medical care. In March of this year, the DOI (Division of Insurance) notified HHS (Health and Human Services) that the state of Colorado would be using geographic ratings and that they (DOI) had established a unique area which they called the “Resort Area.” In their notice to HHS, they maintained that the cost of health care in the Resort Area justified allowing insurers to charge significantly higher rates than in other counties in the state.
In previous articles I have explained how the DOI’s analysis of Garfield County’s health care costs was flawed, incomplete and ignored significant factors. I have posted numerous notices and emails to both the DOI and the governor’s office with no response. I even went to the DOI requesting to see either Commissioner Salazar or their director of external affairs and to the governor’s office, requesting to see either Gov. Hickenlooper, or their director of constituent services. I was told that all were in off-site meetings. I have left numerous messages and have gotten no calls back.
From data I have found that is available to the public, I have been unable to find any justification for the high rates in Garfield County. Health care costs (by county) per member per month (pmpm) are posted on the Colorado All Payor Database. These heath care costs include all sources of health care billed to select insurance companies for 2011 for small groups and individuals by county. There are 23 counties with higher costs than Garfield County, yet Garfield County was grouped with Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties and assigned the highest premiums in the state.
If the DOI follows through with this structure, many healthy people will elect to not take out health insurance due to the high cost. This results in “Adverse Selection,” which means health care costs per insured person will, by definition, be very high. This will perpetuate the illusion that Garfield County is a high cost area, further “justifying” high premium increases year after year.
Garfield County already has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in Colorado, and it will get even higher. Of course, this has serious economic ramifications for affected individuals, employers, heath care providers and the county’s economy in general. The DOI must reverse this decision and develop a plan for affordable insurance rates for affected individuals and small employers for 2014.
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